Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (born 1 November 1973) is an Indian actress and the winner of the Miss World 1994 pageant. Through her successful acting career, she has established herself as one of the most popular and influential celebrities in India. Rai has received numerous accolades, including two Filmfare Awards, and was honoured with the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 2009 and the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Government of France in 2012. She has often been cited in the media as “the most beautiful woman in the world”.
While in college, Rai did a few modelling jobs. Following appearances in several television commercials, she entered the Miss India pageant, in which she placed second. She was then crowned Miss World 1994, after which she began receiving offers to act in film. She made her acting debut in Mani Ratnam’s 1997 Tamil film Iruvar and had her first Hindi film release in Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya that same year. Her first commercial success was the Tamil romantic drama Jeans (1998), which was the most expensive film to be made in Indian cinema at the time. She achieved wider success and won two Best Actress awards at Filmfare for her performances in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999) and Devdas (2002).
Rai garnered critical appreciation for portraying a passionate artist in the Tamil romance Kandukondain Kandukondain (2000), Tagore’s heroine, Binodini, in the Bengali film Chokher Bali (2003), a depressed woman in the drama Raincoat (2004), Kiranjit Ahluwalia in the British drama film Provoked (2006), and a nurse in the drama Guzaarish (2010). Rai’s greatest commercial successes have been the romance Mohabbatein (2000), the adventure film Dhoom 2 (2006), the historical romance’s Guru (2007) and Jodhaa Akbar (2008), the science fiction film Enthiran (2010), and the romantic drama Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016).
Rai married actor Abhishek Bachchan in 2007; the couple have one daughter. Her off-screen roles include duties as a brand ambassador for several charity organisations and campaigns. She is a Goodwill Ambassador for the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS). In 2003, she was the first Indian actress to be a jury member at the Cannes Film Festival.
Early life and modelling career
Rai was born on 1 November 1973 into a Tulu speaking Bunt family in Mangaluru, Karnataka. Her father, Krishnaraj, who died on 18 March 2017, was an Army biologist, while her mother, Vrinda, is a homemaker. She has one elder brother, Aditya Rai, who is an engineer in the merchant navy. Rai’s movie Dil Ka Rishta (2003) was co-produced by her brother and co-written by her mother. The family moved to Mumbai, where Rai attended the Arya Vidya Mandir High School. Rai did her intermediate schooling at Jai Hind College for a year, and then joined DG Ruparel College in Matunga, securing 90 percent in the HSC exams.
She trained in classical dance and music for five years during her teens. Her favourite subject was zoology, so she initially considered a career in medicine. Then with plans to become an architect, she enrolled at Rachana Sansad Academy of Architecture, but later gave up her education to pursue a career in modelling.
In 1991, Rai won an international supermodel contest (organised by Ford) and was eventually featured in the American edition of Vogue. In 1993, Rai gained huge public recognition for her appearance in a Pepsi commercial with actors Aamir Khan and Mahima Chaudhry. The single line – “Hi, I’m Sanjana,” of her dialogue in the commercial made her instantly famous. In the 1994 Miss India pageant, she won second place, behind Sushmita Sen, and was crowned Miss India World, also winning five other sub-titles, “Miss Catwalk”, “Miss Miraculous”, “Miss Photogenic”, “Miss Perfect Ten” and “Miss Popular”. With Sen representing India at the Miss Universe pageant, Rai’s duties as the first runner-up included representing India in the rival Miss World Pageant, held that year in Sun City, South Africa. She went on to win the crown where she also won the “Miss Photogenic” award and Miss World Continental Queen of Beauty − Asia and Oceania. After winning the pageant, Rai spoke of her dream for peace for this world, and her desire to be an ambassador of peace during her one-year reign in London. Rai continued to pursue a career as a model until she became an actress.